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Conceptualizing Legally Relevant Factors Under Guidelines: A Reply to Ulmer

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 38 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2000 Pages: 1245-1252
Rodney L. Engen; Randy R. Gainey
Date Published
November 2000
8 pages
This paper discusses the methodological case for including an indicator of the presumptive sentence in analyses of sentencing decisions under sentencing guidelines, examines Professor Jeffrey Ulmer’s research on the same topic, and counters Ulmer’s conceptual reservations by presenting a theoretical argument for controlling for the presumptive sentence.
The authors’ research note in the same issue of the journal argued that including an indicator of the presumptive sentence is a convenient way to estimate precisely the prescribed effects of legally relevant variables and that the failure to control for the presumptive sentence may lead to biased estimation of both legal and extralegal effects. Ulmer reanalyzed Pennsylvania data, attempted to deal with the model specification problem, and identified methodological limitations of the authors’ approach. However, this approach is empirically and conceptually superior to methods that do not control for the presumptive sentence. In addition, this approach is consistent with the sentencing process in the context of guidelines and is also important for testing current theories of sentencing in that context. Footnotes and 6 references